Inniskillin Wines for a triple cream Brie grilled cheese with poached rhubarb that was paired with their freshly released 2015 Inniskillin Reserve Cabernet Franc Rosé ($19.95, 87 pts). Since we were one of the first to arrive at the winery, we had to wait quite a while before the first grilled cheese was prepared. However, we didn't mind because that gave us a chance to enjoy the sun and great weather on their outdoor patio, and also allowed us to sample some wines at their wine tasting bar. The grilled cheese was hot and tasty, with the rhubarb flavours from the sandwich bringing out similar flavours in the rosé. The creamy cheese also helped tame the racy acids in the wine, making for a balanced, yummy pairing.
Peller Estates Winery for a mouthwatering Niagara grilled trout on a flatbread with smoked salsa, charred feta and pickled red onions. This was paired with your choice of 2015 Peller Estates Private Reserve Rosé ($16.95, 87 pts, sold out) or the 2015 Peller Estates Private Reserve Muscat ($14.95). It was served on their outdoor back patio facing the vineyards - a very nice setting to enjoy this refreshing pairing. I opted for the rosé and it paired really well with the flatbread - lots of cherry, red berry, herbally, spice flavours complementing the dry rosé that made this pairing quite compelling. Making this experience very memorable was the arrival of more than 50 exotic cars that parked on the grass between the patio and the vineyards.
The third stop of the day was at PondView Estate Winery for two stuffed endive boats paired with their 2015 Viognier. Once again, the great weather allowed us to enjoy our pairing outdoors. The first endive boat had grilled pineapple and caramelized shallots in goat cheese and topped with pecans, while the second endive boat had blue cheese and walnuts, and both boats were drizzled with honey. The pairing with the dry Viognier was quite nice with the honey adding some pleasant sweetness. I found the first endive boat to be immaculately paired with the wine - well-balanced flavours that brought out sweet pineapple and honey flavours from the wine. The blue cheese endive made the pairing fall on the savoury side. All-in-all, this was a satisfying experience.
Our fourth stop of the day was an unplanned visit to Pillitteri Estates Winery. We couldn't pass up the chance to enjoy a sumptuous celery and caraway salmon burger that was topped with lettuce, grilled red onion, and lemon remoulade on a brioche bun. Generously sized, this burger was perfectly paired with the newly released 2014 Debbie Travis Pinot Grigio (#457515, $15.95, 86 pts). Knowing what was ahead of us and a little tight on time, I had to skip any wine tasting, including some of the best Icewine in Niagara.
As we moved closer towards direction of home, our fifth stop of the day was at Colaneri Estate Winery for a tangy spring roll from Chang Noi's Thai Restaurant that was paired with the 2012 Colaneri Mistera Gewürztraminer ($19.95). The vegetarian spring roll was topped with a sweet chili sauce that made the spring roll a touch on the hot side, but also allowed it to pair quite well with the sweet Gewürztraminer white wine. Once again, sweet wine paired with spice makes for a delightful combo.
More closer to home in Lincoln, Ontario, our next stop was at Creekside Estate Winery for a break from solid foods to enjoy a refreshing slushie on this hot day. The nice and cold slushie was made by blending their 2015 Creekside Pinot Grigio (#083196, $14.95) with golden Niagara peaches that were in season. It had lots of delicious peach flavours to go along with a slight kick from the alcohol. On this hot summer day, this was the perfect way to cool down!
2015 Niagara New Vintage Wine Festival, our day of food and wine concluded at Featherstone Estate Winery for the second year in a row. Once again, the offering was a strawberry pizza topped with balsamic paired with their latest Featherstone Rosé. It was made in their outdoor wood-fired oven by owner/winemaker David Johnson - the same guy that made these pizza's last summer, except I had no clue who he was last year. Ha! Ha! It was great to finally meet and talk to the man behind the wines. It was Featherstone's Cabernet Franc that got me turned on to Ontario Cab Franc many years ago and is still one of my favourite Ontario red wines year-after-year. The pizza was a delicious combination of sweet, savoury and sour, and accentuated the strawberry flavours in the wine.
Overall, we very much enjoyed our trip through Niagara Wine Country and are looking forward to visiting the region again in September for the big, annual Niagara Grape & Wine Festival where we expecting more delicious food & wine pairings. If you're interested in joining us, let me know!
Tasting Notes:INNISKILLIN DISCOVERY SERIES BARREL FERMENTED SAUVIGNON BLANC 2014 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $22.95
Barrel fermented for 3 months in new and older French barrels. Medium+ intensity nose showing musky oak notes layered with grassy, hay and green aromas. The palate is medium-bodied with a nice, creamy texture, tart acids balanced by clean lime and gooseberry flavours. Juicy with slight sour notes on the long finish. Score: 88 pts
INNISKILLIN DISCOVERY SERIES SUSSE RESERVE RIESLING 2015 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (MD) - $22.95
Generous nose offers clean citrus, orange, peach, Flintstone vitamins, along with hints of mineral and petrol adding complexity. It's medium-bodied with juicy, balanced acids. Off-dry with yummy peach and orange flavours. Good length on the finish. Score: 88 pts
INNISKILLIN RESERVE PINOT NOIR 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $24.95
From a hot vintage, this has a medium+ nose featuring complex spice, blackberry, dark cherry, allspice and clove aromas. On the palate, it is medium-bodied with smooth, supple tannins that are just a touch grippy at the moment. Dark cherry, earth and oak spice flavours. It has very good acids and finishes long. Should be better in 1-2 years. Score: 89 pts
PONDVIEW ESTATE VIOGNIER 2015 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#469205) (XD) - $16.95
Offers a medium+ intensity nose featuring clean lime, white flowers, and fresh citrus. The palate is medium-bodied and dry with an oily texture that offers floral, lemon/lime, some herbally notes, and hints of honey. It has bright, fresh acids, while the finish length is medium-long. Score: 88 pts
PONDVIEW VIDAL ICEWINE 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#390351) (S) (200 mL) - $19.95
Very inviting and highly aromatic nose that offers lovely pineapple, orange, caramelized citrus and peach aromas. It's very sweet with lovely aroma replays of citrus, peach and apricot on the medium-bodied palate, with bright acids balancing the sweetness very well. Excellent length on the finish that has notes of poached pineapples. Score: 90 pts
COLANERI STELLUCHA RIESLING 2015 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (M) - $17.95
The 2015 vintage was just released and has a medium-high nose that is effervescent with nuances of green apple, lime, and hints of mandarin orange. It's medium-bodied with crisp, bright, refreshing acids and flavours of Flintstone vitamins, orange and pear. It's off-dry to medium-dry in sweetness with clean minerality on the long finish. Score: 89 pts
COLANERI UNITA CABERNET FRANC RESERVA 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $39.95
80% appassimento and 22 months in barrel, this has a medium-high intensity, complex nose offering chestnut, brambly, licorice, candied cherry, currant, and blackberry aromas. It's medium-full bodied with raspberry, sweet oak vanilla, herbal spice and ripe berry aroma replays. Quite spicy. Finishes long. Score: 90 pts
CREEKSIDE BACKYARD BUBBLY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2013 - VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#398628) (D) - $24.95
Medium+ intensity featuring mineral, lemon peel and earthy funk. Bubbles are finely tuned on the medium+ bodied palate, with a nice texture and green, grass, and hints of gooseberry flavours typical or the varietal. Comes off as dry overall, with bright acids and very good length on the finish. It was released into VINTAGES on June 11 and some still available. Score: 89 pts
CREEKSIDE BACKYARD BLOCK SAUVIGNON BLANC 2015 - VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#341792) (XD) - $18.95
Medium-high intensity, but somewhat restrained nose of tropical fruit, kiwi, passion fruit, and guava. It's medium-bodied with vibrant, juicy acids with more kiwi and grass flavours, along with some gooseberry notes. Quite balanced overall. Medium-long finish. Score: 88 pts
CREEKSIDE MARIANNE HILL RIESLING 2015 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#443572) (M) - $21.95
A medium+ intensity nose offers orange and citrus aromas with a mineral component. The palate is medium-bodied with acids that are juicy and vibrant, while balancing the pleasing aroma replays in an off-dry style. There's a chalky mineral texture on the palate, while the lengthy finish ends with orange notes. Score: 88+ pts
FEATHERSTONE ROSÉ 2015 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#117861) (D) - $15.95
Bright strawberry, cherry, ripe red plums on the nose, with sweet aroma replays on the light-to-mid weighted palate. It has balanced acids and good length on the finish. Soft, easy drinking style. Score: 87 pts
FEATHERSTONE BLACK SHEEP RIESLING 2015 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#080234) (M) - $16.95
Lovely medium-high intensity nose has clean orange, citrus and some tropical fruit, mineral, apple and peach notes add complexity. It's fairly light-weighted with a slatey texture and pleasing aroma replays on the medium sweet palate. Bright acids provide freshness, while the finish length is very good. Was released into VINTAGES on August 6th. Score: 88 pts
FEATHERSTONE CABERNET FRANC 2014 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#064618) (XD) - $19.20
The medium-high intensity nose has an initial bretty/barnyard aroma that gives way to complex raspberry, bramble, spices, black cherry, and blackberry. It's medium-full bodied with complex spice-led aroma replays. Vibrant acids are well-balanced. Long, raspberry-cherry finish with hints of smoke. Tannins a bit tight at this stage - try this in 1-2 years. Score: 88 pts